In Iraq we can see clear fingerprints of the Turkish, and Qatari, and the Saudi intelligence - expert
The Voice of Russia is discussing these and other issues with Dr. Jordi Tejel, Professor in International History at Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Dr. Christian Koch, the Director of the Gulf Research Center Foundation, coming to us from Geneva, and Taleb Ibrahim, Deputy Director of Damascus center for International and Strategic Studies.
According to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll conducted on June, 20-22, 52% of Americans say they disapprove of how the president is dealing with the current violence in Iraq. However, 42% said the United States still had a responsibility to do something about the violence in Iraq.
The United States' "support will be intense, sustained, and if Iraq's leaders take the steps needed to bring the country together, it will be effective," Secretary Kerry told journalists in Baghdad on Monday.
That same day speaking to the Associated Press in Damascus, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi said the dramatic events in neighboring Iraq threaten to implode the entire Middle East and undermine security in Europe and beyond…
Dr. Jordi Tejel, Professor in International History at Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies:
"I think we should be careful and not overstate the ISIS's strength for the time being. I mean, it is for sure a threat for the Iraqi stability and, for sure, also for Syria and, therefore, for the regional stability and their supporters. Of course, the Iraqi regime has been supported by the US, but also by Russia. And the Syrian regime has been supported by Iran and indirectly also by Russia. So, it is a threat for the regional alliances and stability.
So, for sure, these are Iraq and Syria who are mainly concerned, but also other countries, such as Jordan, because when ISIS talks about Syria, we should keep in mind that they are talking about Greater Syria, which includes the areas of Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan as their goal. So, that’s why Jordan is also concerned about what is going on in Iraq.
And, as far as I know, ISIS is controlling the border area with Jordan. Now ISIS is controlling the two borders with Jordan and Saudi Arabia. And it seems that Saudi Arabia is not really worried about this development. So, it could be that Saudi Arabia is supporting ISIS in order to have a kind of balance between the Sunni and the Shia forces or regions in the area.
They have got a lot of money in Mosul, when they occupied Mosul, from the bank. And I'm sure that they will use it in order to buy weapons. And, probably, they will go to strike back in Syria within the next few weeks. For sure, they need more money and controlling refineries and the pipelines, it is also a way of threatening the regional interests, the international interests and also a way of saying that we are important in the region, so you should negotiate with us or you should take us into account."
Well, in this case money matters are crucial. We are proceeding with the issue with Dr. Christian Koch, the Director of the Gulf Research Center Foundation, coming to us from Geneva:
On the one hand, they've had the support in the past from wealthy individuals out of the Gulf region. They have had their support recently from their takeover of Mosul and also the takeover of the Central Bank and having huge amounts of money located there, that they are no distributing among their corps. I mean, there is no state support coming for these groups.
But you also have to remember that this is not one big unified military fighting force. The situation in Iraq, of course, is that there is a much wider spread opposition against the Maliki Government. ISIS is one part of this opposition right now. And these groups, that are based in the Sunni parts of Iraq, have come together in a common course.
That doesn't mean we are facing a homogeneous unified force that will be able to spread its control over the whole of the country at one point, and then even go beyond. They have had some successes now on the battlefield, but I would not expect this momentum to last, as it had in the last two weeks. I wouldn't expect it to continue with such a speed.
We also have to realize the fact that the ISIS has been able to gain so much ground in recent years, lies in the failed policies of the past and, of course, specifically, this all began with the invasion in 2003 and the complete mess that was left behind in terms of the post-reconstruction process in Iraq. The Government that is in place now in Baghdad, is one that the US encouraged without looking at the issues of reconciliation, of political representation that are important for the long-term stability of the country.
So, there has to be a great amount of pressure now put on the current Government of Nouri al-Maliki to provide more evenhanded representation and more widespread inclusion of other groups in the entire political process of Iraq, and not just make this into the direction of what the Shia majority in the country wants to impose. The result is that the exclusion of other groups has led to the current situation and that needs to be corrected.
But how do we stop the violence to start correcting the situation?
This is an issue where we need as much regional cooperation as possible, including a dialog among the key countries that are surrounding this area of conflict at the moment. So, that of course includes a country like Saudi Arabia, it includes even Egypt, Turkey has to be brought in and even Iran has to be brought to the table to have a wider discussion.
And do that also with some of the key external actors, of course, the US being in the forefront, but also Russia can be in those discussions, because we are not going to be able to solve this violence right away, but we have to put a process in place in which we can slowly begin to downgrade some of the violence and also look for political solutions that would prevent this issue from spreading it further into the region, which at the moment is a real possibility.
So, there is this deep concern over the stability of Jordan and the Gulf States themselves are experiencing a certain degree of blowback from this increased extremism. Saudi Arabia has always argued that we need to solve the Syrian issue that the Assad's Government has lost all of its legitimacy and unless we deal with the fall of Assad, we will face this increasing issue of radicalization throughout the region. This is now coming true. So, again, we need to look at the more region-wide implications of what the Syrian crisis and now the Iraq crisis means for all parties concerned.
And now we are taking a closer look at the regional implications with Taleb Ibrahim, Deputy Director of Damascus center for International and Strategic Studies:
I think what is taking place now in Iraq is very dangerous, because it may lead to a divided Iraq and you can imagine the consequences of that division of Iraq. This can be a fundamental end, a black state, black in thoughts, black in behavior.
If it takes place, it will go back to the middle ages, where they were cutting hands and necks. I think now all the humanity is facing a tilt point in the Iraqi-Syrian crisis.
I think what our minister of information wanted to say is that if Syria and Iraq are defeated in this battle, no force in the world can stop the ISIS or Dā’ish, as we call it in Arabic. It will expand to Turkey, to the north of Caucasus, to the middle of Asia, to Europe. And this would be a serious movement, something unsustainable for all humankind, because it would be very dangerous and it may lead to a new age of religious wars.
What is the correct name of this group? Is it the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or rather of Iraq and the Levant?
The correct name is the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Shām (ISIS).
And what is Shām?
Shām in traditional Arab sense is an area which stretches from the west of Iran, Kurdistan to Iraq, to Syria, to Jordan, Kuwait, Palestine, which is now Israel and Lebanon. This is what we call in the Arabic tradition Bilad ash-Sham or the Natural Syria. And it was called in the ancient history Fertile Crescent.
Do I get it right that this name actually reflects their program?
Yes, exactly! It reflects the program of what they want. They indeed want to renew the Islamic caliphate. They want to build a new Islamic state. They want to globalize their state.
If you read what they are writing or if you read the sites of the ISIS, they say frankly that they want to put their hands on this area and after that, this should be a core state which will expand west and east, north and south.
And they will govern the whole world under the authority of God. They were authorized by God to make a new caliphate and to make themselves dominate the whole world, because – as they say – God and Prophet Muhammad promised it to them and he said this is jihad that you have to do. These are very dangerous thoughts and I think by this we will return to the Middle Ages.
But as to their offensive in Iraq, has it come really as unexpectedly as the media would have it?
I think no, it was somehow expected. But what has happened in Iraq, it was a sudden collapse of the Iraqi army and the Iraqi authorities in the province of Nineveh, in Mosul and neighbouring provinces. This wasn’t sudden, the Iraqi intelligence was informed that something will take place.
Another little bit of information is that the chief of the Turkish general intelligence Hakan Fidan visited Mosul, the city of Iraq, a few days before this offensive. Here we can see very clear fingerprints of the Turkish intelligence and Qatari intelligence, and, of course, the Saudi intelligence.
I think they want to make this state a Sunni state to separate Iran form Syria, to separate Iran from the Mediterranean Sea, from Hezbollah and this will be on behalf of Israel.
Another point which is very important is that by building this state, which would be under the control and protection of Turkey, they could bring gas and oil pipelines from Qatar to Europe. And I think that France is now talking in a very strange way. They don’t consider the ISIS as a terrorist group.
And what is taking place in the media of Saudi Arabia and in the media of Turkey, and in the media of Qatar, and the media of even France and somehow of the US, they are calling this a revolution against Maliki, a revolution against a dictatorship.
I think that we must look for the geopolitical factors, we must look for the interests of Israel, we must look for what is called the geopolitics of oil and gas. It has a very important role in the events which are taking place now in Iraq.
And now we have John Kerry travelling to Baghdad, saying that ISIS poses a threat to the whole of the region. But, at the same time, there were reports in the press that ISIS guys were trained by American experts in a camp in Jordan.
Yes, exactly! The 200 leaders of the ISIS were trained in Jordan by the American CIA and they were sent to Syria to fight the Syrian Government. But they went to Iraq and they are the core of this offensive which happened in Iraq. Indeed, this is the effort of the US, what we have in Iraq.
You know, we have a very long history of the American lies, the American propaganda. They are saying things and they are doing things. We don’t trust the policy of the US. We have a long history. They said they came to Iraq to check for chemical weapons. And after that they said Saddam was cooperating with Al Qaeda and etc - the history of lies.
But now Kerry and the American administration are deeply confused, because they don't know the real project of the ISIS, they don't know how much it will expand, they misunderstood this terrorist organization and they thought that they can control it. Now, they saw that they are unable to control it and they are unable to predict what will happen tomorrow.
The US is very much confused by this and I think that they made a terrible mistake by allowing the ISIS to put foot in Syria. It will expand to Iraq, it will jump to Jordan, no doubt.
And I have some information that Saudi Arabia will face a very great threat, because these jihadists believe that war is a way that God allowed them to defeat the others, to achieve their final goal, which is the globalization of the Islamic caliphate.
So, no matter what, they will cooperate even with the devil, they will work even with the demons to achieve their target, which they consider is the target of Allah or the God.